I'm going travel'n today! Y'all watch that eggnogging, I know how you are!
Sunday, December 24, 2006
Friday, December 22, 2006
A research firm in the UK, Bunnyfoot, released a press release on a study on the effectiveness of in-game ads recently. To paraphrase, the firm concludes that in-game ads are a waste of time and that gamers don't engage with them. Well, you know I had to look into this one.
I found the press release. I read it. Before I begin, let's take a sidebar.
Yeah ok, so like, I know what you're thinking. You're like, dude, umm freak'n marketer, of course you hate this study. But it's not like that. I'm totally going at this from a objective perspective. I'm always ready to back down, even cave if you will, when presented with sound data. Hey, I might then shred the methodology but I'd stand corrected until more data was available.
Biggest problem with this press release: there's absolutely no data. The entire thing reads like a one guy's interpretation of a rorschach inkblot test. Straight from the press release (with my comments italicized and in blue):
Results showed an astonishing variation in consumer engagement (We were not able to definitively find results as our data was all over the place. However, we're going to tell a story anyways because we spent money on this puppy). Overall, SFI scores were comparatively low (compared to what?), especially when contrasted with the prevalence of brand placements (So the scores were low when compared to the number of ads shown? Shouldn't you like, compare scores to other scores? You know, instead of comparing scores to your own bias?). Highest SFI scores were found with NBA Live and Smackdown Vs Raw; however, recall and recognition figures were surprisingly low; (surprising to whom? Again, what's the benchmark, what are you comparing to?) a pattern evident across all titles. Moreover, PGR3 elicited no consumer engagement at all, resulting in 0% on all scores. (I stand corrected, this is the only data point in the entire press release)Like I've said many times on this blog: beware of what you read in a press release. This release has gotten pick up on respectable pubs like Gamedaily, Next Gen and Gamasutra. None of those pubs have questioned the legitimacy of these findings.
Now I don't want to question anyone's journalistic integrity but perhaps the headline from this release was just too good to pass up. Maybe we don't really want to know how true it is, we just like hearing it. In-game ads have generally been received as warmly as a raging case of herpes (not that I know anything about that). Someone puts out a study that seemingly shows the ads to be impotent and guess what, that study will get headlines.
It's almost like they're saying: hey, let's forget about the methodology. Let's forget if the study was a one-off (play this game for 5 minutes while I watch you) or longitudinal (play this game for a few days). Forget about using a control or comparing results to other results. Forget about all that k? Just read the headline.
Thursday, December 21, 2006
Recently came across two really horrible tag lines.
Greyhound's "Let's Go Dog" and Advil's "I'm All Advil"
Ok, to be fair, it's not easy being a bus service or a pain killer. These products are about as sexy as grandma's thong (Yes, I know I'm asking for more trouble). So now imagine that you're the brand manager for these brands and you have the unenviable task of trying to push more product. Good news though, finance just approved a sweet new marketing budget. You immediately round up the agency talent and have a meeting.... it goes something like this:
You start the meeting with some objectives (because that's what they told you to do in business school).
"People, we need a new direction. It can't be different than the old direction because we spent a lot of money building this brand and we can't mess with it. One more thing: it can't be similar to the old direction because that's not interesting anymore. Ok? Let's brainstorm."
"What about a concise and exciting tag line?" Joan, the copy writer, says.
"What about a new logo?" Daniel, the art director, states more than suggests.
"We need our own 'Just do it" Joan says, jotting down the phrase in her moleskin notebook. She then doubles back to reinforce the crosses on the t's, each stroke appearing to strengthen her confidence in the idea.
"Yeah like that swoosh logo." Daniel says, nodding in no one in particular. You hear the distinct sound of an out of control pen tip ripping across paper. The moleskin closes with a snap.
"How about a catch phrase?" You offer.
There's a pause, more than likely the brilliance of the idea is sinking in. Joan looks like she likes the idea and says, "I like that idea!". From the other side of the table, Daniel leans back in his chair and begins to intently examine the back of his pen.
"Ok, come up with some options and let's regroup next week." You say with satisfaction.
"We're going to have to get back to you on the timing" says an account executive that you swear wasn't there a moment ago.
"That'll be fine."
Weeks go by and finally you get to see some concepts. They're all horrible. You try to reject them all but you're told revisions would take a few more weeks. You don't have time like that; top floor Sharon wants to see results this quarter. So you go with the concept you hate the least. This turns out to be...
Let's Go Dog! (or I'm All Advil!)
The good news is that they went ahead with the site idea you had. You've been reading a lot about consumer generated content online so now you're all about starting conversations with your customers. You required the site to have that very trendy "submitted content" content. In fact, you even called up the agency just to make sure they have the bandwidth to cover all the people that'll be coming to the site. "Maybe we should hire some college kids to filter out the submissions. Will 20 kids be enough?" You ask yourself.
You start to wonder if your consumer generated stuff will be as big as YouTube. Suddenly, two words pop into your head: Bumper Stickers! You dial the agency.
Tuesday, December 19, 2006
The Wii weather channel is in business. Not exactly a monumental bit of news, you can get weather anywhere. But then I started thinking. As gimicky as it can sometimes be, weather has always been some sort of technology milestone.
- In mobile communications, Google lets you get weather via SMS
- Tivo sets went online and one of the first services offered was weather
- All sorts of items out there (cars, watches, fridges)
With that said, adding weather doesn't always mean the product becomes a hit. Like marketing in Second Life, you do it to get people talking but you really shouldn't expect results.
For the Wii, they didn't really need to add the weather function, the product is innovative enough as it is. The weather function in the Wii suggests to me that Nintendo is trying to tell us something. They're saying, "If we can pull weather into the system, imagine the possibilities." I do and I'm impressed.
Monday, December 18, 2006
This just in: Consumer generated media has jumped the shark. The YouTube thing, that whole Digg this stuff, even the recommendation stuff you did on Amazon the other day, it's all now officially done. Stick a fork in it.
What am I talking about? It comes down to one particularly big announcement recently. Time Magazine just announced their Person of the Year and that person is you. Yeah, you. Feel special? Not so fast, it's me too. And that nice girl at the Gap. Yup, even that guy with the suspenders at work. (What's up with that guy?)
Time thinks this year is all about the consumer taking over media. It's about lonelygirl and those mentos guys but a fair share goes to the unspoken people that have made all those Web 2.0 sites the latest darlings of cool. I think it's pretty cool and I agree wholeheartedly. Problem is, this is the kiss of death. No career survives a Person of the Year, that's the top of the track, it's all downhill from here.
It's a shame too, I was just about to put up my own video series on YouTube. It was going to be called "Confessions from the Bathtub". You would have loved it.
On a related note. While going to the Time Person of the Year section of their site, I run into this contextually relevant interstitial ad unit (the kind that interrupts you between click locations):Did you read the first copy line of the ad? "You might not be Time Person of the Year" It continues to say something to the effect of "you can drive like one". Oh my god, this is so absolutely delicious, I can't stand it. Can you imagine the look on the agency's collective face when Time announced that the Person of the Year was indeed "you". "But but... we already flighted the ad!" "Dammit!" Let us sit back and sip at the greatness that this is blunder. Mmm, so fresh, so tasty.
Thursday, December 14, 2006
Now I know I'm not Gawker but this story about Paris Hilton defending Britney's partying was just too good to pass up. You gotta imagine the cringes and winces that this little interview evoked from their entourages.
Britney's publicist, on site: "No Paris, it's fine, you don't have to say anything. Seriously, we got it under control. You really don't have to say anything to the press."
Minutes later: "NO NO NO! Shut up, shut up!.... Dammit!"
In related news, the publicist was last seen on a bender in Brentwood.
Wednesday, December 13, 2006
Here's an interesting question. Should all advertising you see be identified as advertising? If your initial reaction is yes, then you'll want to head over to NextGen and read this article. Too lazy to click? Yeah, I know that feeling. Here, I'll sum it up for you: The FTC is going to start evaluating viral ad campaigns to see if "the relationship between the endorser and the seller isn't disclosed". What does this mean in real life? Well, that means that if you pay someone to go onto a message board and post about how great your product is, that's a no go. That's cool, I hate those secret astroturfing campaigns anyways.
However, here's where it gets sticky for me: What about viral campaigns that take the form of alternate reality games? Remember I love bees? Or Giantology? Are these viral campaigns deceptive because the advertiser isn't immediately disclosed? Will this inevitably extend to product placements in TV or movies or the stuff a celebrity wears? Should we slap a warning label on every piece of advertising to make sure we identify it as such? Will I stop asking questions and actually say something? Yes.
When I was working on BOTS, we had to identify all of our advertising with a nice 10 point font disclaimer on all ad boxes that said, "Advertisement". This was because we had players under the age of 13 and those poor kids can't tell the difference between an ad and a non-ad. Which I guess makes sense. For example, as I kid, I never knew what paid for TV. The commercials were just more content to me, mini shows, if you will.
But hey, last I checked, most advertising is geared towards adults or near adults. You know... the people in the world with money. We are constantly bombarded with advertising and almost everything you see with a brand in it (TV, billboard, message board or your local park trash can) was more than likely meticulously planned by some account executive somewhere. There's no accidents in advertising. Cynical adults know this and all adults should at least implicitly understand this.
But let's go back to viral campaigns. They are a different beast altogether. What if instead of monetary compensation, endorsers are given something else, something like social capital? The ability to pass along something cool before anyone else or to tout an upcoming product before it's "cool" has value in itself. If an advertiser gathers a group of influencers, do the influencers have to disclose that they were selected to be the seeders? What I'm getting at is that you really can't get into someone's head and find out if their motivation for shilling something is "pure".
C'mon people, let's buck up and realize that the world can not be padded at every turn. Buyer beware. Advertisee beware.
"Life is pain Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something."
Monday, December 11, 2006
For the most part, I try to conduct myself professionally on this blog. Time permitting, I copy edit my entries and my final posts are usually the third if not fifth revision. However, there are moments when well-written (or at least well-intentioned) prose does not do justice to the message one is trying to convey. In these moments, the sheer angst and raw emotion involved demand something less constructed, something more primal, less polite. Something like this:
OMFG! RedSteel for the Wii sucks so hard! Holy crap, where do I start? Ugly ass cutscenes. Stupid gameplay (the sword-fighting is so lame! I sympathize with the children of the developers; those poor bastards that have to hide their face at school. "Nuh uh, my daddy didn't make Redsteel, you're a liar-face!"). Phoned in voice-acting. Level design and aesthetic so frustrating, I think I gave myself a hemorrhoid.
I'm floored, absolutely floored that this was actually released. In the assembly of all games I've ever played, the Time Crisis representative stood up, took a peek at the new guy, winced and sat back down whispering to The House of the Dead, "Damn, that's one ugly mofo".
I think you get the point. For more punishment, see Game Rankings review summaries.
Later this week, my amazing (in a good way) experience with Wii Sports and Zelda.
Friday, December 08, 2006
Here's a quick news bit as my Wii updates (refer to previous post).
The popular (caveat: not quite popular enough to stay on the air yet strangely popular enough to have a movie ) sci-fi series Firefly has given its blessing (read: milked licensing rights for mega bucks) to a MMORPG on the Multiverse Network platform.
Before I dive into the news, just wanted to let you know that I actually did like the show and movie. I call it "The Real World: Millennium Falcon". I can't wait for Whedon to make a new show, hopefully one set in the White House or behind the scenes of a sketch comedy show. =P
Anyways, back to the news. This is retarded. The show was watchable because of the characters, not the universe they inhabited (though I do like the whole Asian domination thing). I can't imagine the Browncoats being excited about running around in this world without somehow being connected to the star characters. I can't help but think this would be like making a Superman MMO that doesn't actually let you to hang out with or be Supes.
via Wired and Amber (who beat me to it and said generally the same things, but don't hold that against her)
(Dammit, why won't this Wii finish updating?!)
My Wii has arrived!
I'd love to tell you all about it but I'm updating it right now. We're currently on the third try as I keep getting an Internet error. Hopefully, I don't have a brick since some other people have run into this issue.
If all goes well, I'm diving in for a nice long session. Rough estimates have me back to the land of reality sometime next Tuesday. Heh
Thursday, December 07, 2006
Hello from the Hilton in Downtown Nashville. It's like 3AM here and freezing, I mean absolutely frigid. Can I just say that I live in the best state in the entire universe? Except the state of bliss, now that's a place you want to buy a timeshare! (It's past midnight, we're fresh out of wit, all we got left are stale puns).
I wasn't going to post because I never get around to posting when I'm not at home anyways (heck, I never post when I'm out of town; even when I promise to post) so why break the trend now.
But here's a late night tidbit just for you. Found an interesting little site via a tip from my friend JB. If you like data and graphs and numbers and all those things that make normal people squint their eyes and reassess the value of your friendship vs. the degradation of their coolness by being in your proximity... then check out Swivel.com. It's Web 2.0 meets random data elements. Looks to be a pretty interesting concept.
My main concern is the reliability of data. Usually, people will believe anything in a graph if they think it's remotely plausible. Once information or misinformation is out there, it's really hard to control or pull back. If you think trans fat is dangerous, think about the problems a misleading graph about health risks, investment strategies, brand perceptions/sales, or blog popularity (Branded Newb is the number one online marketing blog on the fourth Tuesday of all months ending in "er". It's true, look it up!) could do to susceptible people.
Swivels seems to be based on people submitting data and then remixing it into insightful or silly visuals. However, is this site going to work if it doesn't run on pure facts but on "social facts" such as what makes Wikipedia work? What I'm calling social facts are not factual per se, they're democratically factual. Just check out all the back and forth that happens in Wikipedia on hot topics like evolution, global warming and the 23rd President of the United States (Benjamin Harrison... or so the "government" would like you to believe).
If the community actually takes the time to monitor data integrity, then I think this has potential to be a really cool resource. If not, well then, I've got a couple data points correlating blog commenting with material wealth. You better get a head start.
Wednesday, December 06, 2006
I don't give enough kudos on the Newb so here's a big one to Helio, the cell (don't call it a phone) phone guys. First, they have an awesome site that has probably one of the best interfaces for shopping for a phone that I've seen to date (or shopping for anything else for that matter).
You can do almost all your decision making within the same page and the information is concise and to the point, no stupid marketing copy or unnecessary legal. If you want more info, it's just underneath the fold. This is how you do online shopping! Such a nice execution, I honestly wished my contract was up with T-Mobile. Check out the screenshot and then head to their site for a test drive to see what I mean.
The second thing they get kudos for is a radio spot that actually got my attention. Heard the spot in my car and found it on Google Blogoscoped. They're hosting the MP3 so as a courtesy, I'm not going to direct link it but you should head over there listen to it. The ad has a song with the lines, "I got Google Maps in my pants, in my pants, in my pants." Nuff said.
I'm heading out of town again today but I'll be back Friday. Happy Early Holidays!
Tuesday, December 05, 2006
You ever notice something, you know, something that's probably been there all along and think to yourself: "When the hell did this new staircase show up at my apartment?" or something similar. That happens to me all the time! The other day, I found a new button on the radio of my car that I swear was not there before. There should be a name for this phenomenon. It should probably be in French, you know, like deja vu. Maybe "Qu'est-ce que c'est!?". Nah, that's too hard to type. How about the Spanish "Que es eso?!"
Nevermind, I digress. Anyways, I got a que es eso moment yesterday when I was doing some Xmas shopping. (This is probably old news in the blogosphere but it's new to me.) Amazon and Buy.com both have ads in their sites. No, not their own ads, other people's ads. When did this happen?! (btw, the links to their sites are affiliate free, how often do you see that? See, I'm not 100% evil!)
So after I got over my initial shock at seeing this, (and my guilt at not noticing earlier) I started thinking. Of course, the more I started thinking, the more I got confused. Why would they want to do this? Ok smarty pants, yes, I know it's to make money. But surely they're losing something as well.
I mean, are they such giants of e-commerce that they can sacrifice the shopping experience for the added ad revenue? Not only that, why would a shopping site, where I would think the main goal is retention and stickiness, want to give people the option to click off to another site?
The only thing I could come up with is that they're using ad revenue to offset sales revenue and thus be able to offer lower prices, negating the lowered user experience (people shop by price anyways). Still, the whole thing doesn't make much sense to me.
Monday, December 04, 2006
Have you ever been to the world of online marketing? It's a fantastical place; the rivers run with chocolate and flow besides vast orchards of money trees. But try not to blink because those same rivers can very quickly turn into watery avenues of bloated bodies coursing through fields of charred and blackened dreams. This world can blossom or bust in a blink and the only thing you're left with is your own barely audible "Why?".
Why? Sometimes it's the market, sometimes it's your own stupid mistakes. Financial scandals are a good one (mistake that is). So is shopping for Aerons before you're profitable. Now I don't mean to be all doom and gloom (there is no second bubble right?). There is, however, one thing that will always be a mistake and that's not respecting your consumers.
Consumers, like me, are fundamentally conservative. When we walk down the world of online marketing, we keep our purses clutched closely (yeah, I have a man-purse, what's it to you?) and we walk on the other side of the road when we see something fishy in front of us. Safety is one of our highest concerns and privacy is inextricably tied to it. Collectively, we don't like putting out with our personal information until we've been wooed a little, maybe taken out for a few dinners or at least a movie.
So it's with considerable pain, as an online marketer myself, that I see campaigns such as the one by Kettle Chips. I was reading boingboing when I saw their interesting ad in the corner. 5 new flavors of Kettle Chips and I get to vote (on something, I guess the best flavor?). So far so good. A campaign that invites me to participate; what a nice web-savvy concept. So I click.
I get to the landing page of the campaign and I hit this screen. "A world of flavor awaits" it says. Vote for the next flavor to hit the stores, it implies. That sounds cool, I want to vote, I want to see the flavors! "Enter your email and press GO".
[Insert sudden braking sound here]
I have to do what?! You want my email address before I can vote for your stupid chips brand extension? I don't think so. Bye!
I left the site. Frankly, I'm not that kind of consumer. I'm not easy.
I'm sure (or maybe I hope) that there's a ton of cool content behind that screen and that this brand isn't really that bad. Heck, maybe I could even take these chips home to meet my parents. Unfortunately, the rush to get my email address killed this relationship before it even started. This brand didn't respect me as a consumer. Sure, it got my attention but the moment that happened, it asked to get private. If I were the slapping type, I'd slap them for the audacity.
This isn't that complicated an idea so I hope this serves as a reminder to other online marketers. Respect your consumer. They are doing you a favor by visiting your site, heck by even giving you the time of day. Eventually, we'll fork out our private information but only after you've wined and dined us a little, maybe given us a reason to trust you. Such a shame too, I really wanted to vote for those Chocolate Chips if for no reason other than the pun.
I hope they read this. So for the Google crawlers, a little song:
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loved your big crunch
Kettle Chips: Chocolate Flavored, you'd go well with lunch
(I can't think of a line but I want to rhyme munch)
You broke my heart, when you asked me to part
with my information, giving me such consternation.
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loved your big crunch
Kettle Chips, Kettle Chips, I've loooooved your big crunch.
Wednesday, November 29, 2006
I usually don't find unfortunately-placed ads to be funny but this one made me laugh. Note how both ad units are working hard to form a perfect storm of irony with the article and it's headline. The Sprint logo in the article matching the ads is just the cherry on top.
(link to article here, but ads may no longer be running.)
Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Back in April, I posted about my loyalty to brands and how even in the face of guaranteed disappointment, I eagerly take a big gulp of that bitter broth. You see, I'm in the camp that once you love something you can't unlove it. My heart is like that big wet green brick you find at the florist: once I make room for something in it, it's permanent. No, really, that's my heart. It's not the big colorful arrangement of sexual organs you see on the outside, it's the soft squishy center on the inside. But dammit, I'm sick of those perfectly manicured, shiver-inducing fingers poking remorselessly at random just to see how I dent.
Those times are over. I will not be seduced by those perfect brands I used to love. I have to move on, there are more fish in the sea. It starts today! Which is good, because it happens to be the launch day for Michael Crichton's next book, aptly called "Next". In April, I said:
"I still read every Michael Crichton book that comes out hoping for a glimpse of old times."
I'm done with you Crichton. Sure, your last four books may have knocked on my door (separated by just enough time for the hurt to have faded) and maybe I was weak when I let em in. Yeah, I took them to bed and stayed up all night indulging in what I promised I would never do again. But each morning I was left with nothing more than a sense of being used... being dented.
That's over now. Don't try to call or text me. It's over ok? Bye.
Monday, November 27, 2006
(Some post-tryptophan catching up)
According to the nice folks at GameStudy.org, a law is moving through the Korea government that will attempt to ban RMT. Except there's a problem. There's a giant loophole in that it covers in-game points and money but not in-game items. Without closing the loophole, this basically makes the law ineffective. The market will quickly and effectively select an in-game item as a trading device. The seller will just buy the Giant Bag of Crap +1 for 1,000 gold, sell the Giant Bag of Crap +1 to the buyer for $50, then buyer will resell Giant Bag of Crap +1 for 1,000 gold. Result: Law pwned.
So I'm wondering, why the loophole? They're working on an amendment for early 07 to address in-game items but they could easily just ban it with this law. So I started thinking about this and my cynical side kicked in. Taxes.
I'll bet anyone $.01 that when "early 07" comes around the new law regulates in-game item sales as well as adds a nice tax element.
Gamasutra has an interesting article today about the Ebay activity of Wii and PS3s since all the madness started.
Here's the quick lowdown (in chart form created by yours truly, I'm a geek!).
The number of units sold (surprisingly) has been about the same. The huge difference is in the price increase. People are willing to pay a whooping 150% more for the PS3 while only 65% more for the Wii. This can, of course, be explained by the lower number of PS3's released (supply & demand, blah blah).
(Here's an interesting thing for number geeks like me. There were a reported 1 million Wiis released and 400 thousand PS3s, so approximately one and a half times more Wii's than PS3's. If you look at the percent increase that people were willing to pay, PS3's went for about one and a half times more than the increase in Wii's.)
So what's the big deal with all this Ebay madness? Well, if you tally up all the numbers and averages (and keep in mind this is averages so not scientific by any means), Ebayers made approximately $28 million in the hype so far. Ebay itself, with a 3% cut of the action, only made about $1.4 million (double that if everyone used PayPal).
$28 million is a huge number but was it worth it? Let's see. Let's assume the average Ebayer waited in line for 6 hours. If you add up the consoles sold (57,684) and multiply that by 6 hours waited per console, you get 346,104 hours. At a total gross profit of $27,935,485 for all consoles auctioned, that comes out to a nice $80.71 pay rate for waiting in line. (At that rate, for those 6 glorious hours, the Ebayers had an annual income of $167,885)
And that, my friends, is why we have the madness.
Now feel free to cut apart my math and assumptions and talk about shipping costs and travel costs and all that stuff. =)
Wednesday, November 22, 2006
Best turkey recipe of all time: Alton Brown's Good Eats Turkey
My interpretation: Use real ginger instead of candied. Add couple stems of thyme to the aromatics. When handling poultry, make sure to wash your hands before returning to your controller. During the first 30 minutes of cooking (the high heat period) do not begin the Henne Mines section of FFXII, you'll never make the save point under 40 minutes and by that time, your bird is toast.
I prefer canned cranberry sauce to go with. Open the can on both ends and it slides right out. Happy Cooking!
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
This Thursday at 11AM PST, I know exactly what you'll be doing. You'll be sitting in front of your computer, browser loaded to Amazon and madly clicking "Get this deal".
Don't know what I'm talking about? Amazon is having a "Customers Vote" promotion. Users can go to Amazon now and vote between four deals, the deal with the most votes by 9PM tonight will be offered at 11AM Thursday morning. The leading deal with almost all the votes: an Xbox360 for $100. To be honest, I'm secretly hoping for the Barbie set to make a miraculous comeback in the last 45 minutes but I'm one man and I can only do so much.
Anyways, if you're not madly clicking at 11AM on Thursday, please turn in your gamer badge, you're a shame to the community and quite frankly, no friend of mine.
By the way, I'm pretty intrigued by this promotion from Amazon. Almost like I've seen this before... Wait, I got it...that's right. AmEx has been doing this for over a year with My WishList.
Monday, November 20, 2006
No, the Master Chief hasn't converted. I'm talking about the halo effect from all the attention surrounding the PS3 and Wii launches this weekend.
Taco Bell, always a class act, paws at PS3's coattail with a promotion that'll have you staring in disbelief: Trade in your PS3, get over 12 grand in taco credits. As I've mentioned before, when a marketer has nothing to talk about, they shamelessly search for headlines. It's about as effective and pleasing to watch as someone licking the inside of a candy wrapper. Hey, I'm not saying it doesn't work, it's just cheesy (get it, Taco Bell... cheesy? You know you love it). Way to get at those crumbs Taco Bell!
via Next Gen
Today the NY Times had a review of the PS3, it wasn't nice. To sum it up:
"Measured in megaflops, gigabytes and other technical benchmarks, the PlayStation 3 is certainly the world’s most powerful game console. It falls far short, however, of providing the world’s most engaging overall entertainment experience."I had a chance to play the system this weekend and it isn't a mind-blowing leap of technology either. We're all going to have to admit at some point that we've reached the point of diminishing return on pixels and graphics. Adding another million pixels here or there is just a drop in the pond and quite frankly, the graphics pond still looks kinda stiff. In the next generation, maybe we should spend some time on AI or god-forbid, gameplay mechanics instead.
Sorry, let me get back on topic. So the main criticism in the NY Times article is the feeling that Sony "settled" on the usability of the system. The interface, online features and hardware add-ons fall short of the competition (namely Xbox360). There does, however, appear to be hope as Sony can update the system at a later time. And here's where my rant comes.
We have settled for incomplete/terminally buggy games for a while now. We inevitably download the patch and cross our fingers because we had no choice; they didn't tell us on the box it was version 0.8. Now we have hardware guys telling us they'll fix it later, just use what you got for now. That's ridiculous.
The Internet is for porn (if you don't know this reference, YouTube it), not for missing deadlines and getting do-overs. It's shameful that we buy a piece of hardware and we still can't be certain we've got a finished product. (Speaking of unfinished, I'm still fuming from KOTOR 2) Updates should be reserved for additional content or for very peculiar bugs that developers just couldn't have anticipated (like that gamer that gets stuck behind a wall after spending 50 hours trying to figure out how to get stuck behind a wall). What they're doing is sloppy, I'm going to call it slopdating.
We can't allow this to keep happening. You don't buy a shirt and expect buttons to come later. You don't buy a car and hope the braking system is the most recent version for that model. We have to take a stand and start boycotting products. In fact, in protest, I'm not going to buy a PS3 for at least another 3 weeks. That'll show em!
(What? Did you really think there's going to be a solution? No one is going to boycott a game or a system because slopdating is what we do nowadays. That door is open and no one has the power (or willpower) to close it. I just wanted to rant.)
[If you think boycotting is for pussies: Go ahead and get your PS3, then smash it. Brought to you by the guys from that site that likes to wreck expensive stuff for your viewing pleasure. No, I'm not going to link them because every time they break something, an angel gets a hernia.]
Friday, November 17, 2006
Happy PS3 Day!
Like a good blogger, I've been scanning the news. Nothing interesting, just what you'd expect. People camping, trampling each other, selling their first born, you know, that kind of stuff. And then, like a menorah under a Xmas tree, comes this article: "If you're shopping, remember the Xbox360" brought to you by MSNBC (you know, the joint press venture between Microsoft and NBC?).
Excuse me sir, you seem to have dropped your journalistic integrity.
As you would expect, the article reads like an ad for the 360. If you haven't had lunch yet and you feel like throwing up a little, go for it.
Shame on you MSNBC!
Tuesday, November 14, 2006
An interview with Peter Dille, head of PS3 marketing, from GameDaily . If you like marketing and games, this is a good one to read (just to try to get into his head). For extra fun, take a drink everytime he uses a marketing buzzword.
On a side note, I'm heading to the Volunteer State today and will be back Thursday morning. Have a great mid-week!
Monday, November 13, 2006
Buick "launched" a viral video recently, it flopped. Why? Let's dissect it.
Is Tiger to blame? Nope. Nike proves that Tiger can be viral. Remember the bouncing ball ad?
Is it the premise of using viral videos to sell cars? Nope. Look at the Honda cogs ad.
Well what is it then? I think this is pretty simple and we can attribute this flop to one thing: A lack of honesty.
Certain elements scream out to the viewer that you're being had: The unrealistically long shots of the vehicle, like a frat boy in Cancun who only focuses his camera at the ocean. The sound/dialogue that happens to clear up at the right moment. The proximity to Tiger that seems to get closer as the video proceeds. And finally, the best part. The security guard with the overplayed hand screen.
Look guys, you don't have to fake it for your viral to work. Consumers will find you out and then what are you left with? A bunch of cynical bloggers and viewers trashing your video. Wait a second... Is that what you guys wanted?
Create a bad viral. Get people talking about it. Get it on the top 10 videos. Have people trash and talk about the video while absorbing those beauty shots. Shrug it all off with the, "Well, you know, we're Buick, you know, old guy cars? We don't know this Internet stuff, we just gave it a shot."
Thursday, November 09, 2006
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
This Technorati chart shows daily posts in the blogosphere with informative highlights on days with something interesting going on in the world. It's all very interesting but what the hell happened in mid-September last year?
Analyst Opinion: September 2005 saw an increase in the phenomenon we call, "Sorry, I'm too lazy to post." This lasted approximately a month topped off by a dark Wednesday that industry insiders called "meh"day. During this month, hurricane Katrina struck and the collective blogosphere said (paraphrased): "oh damn, better say something about that." Which was followed by another period of meh. Early October saw a spike in posts commonly referred to as the, "I'm back!"
As for myself, I didn't start blogging till Feb 06. After the coal miner accident, I just couldn't stay away any longer.
What's the point? There's 300 million of us and surely someone else will take the slack. We voted last time and look at the idiot that ended up in office. And to those people that say it's your "duty". Well, look Mr. Righteous, it's not like we're NOT voting these days. We vote for singers, dancers and people on islands or something like that. What happens? They lose anyways. We vote religiously for briefcase #4 and it's always either #2 or that damn #6. We vote for Chinese and everyone freak'n wants Italian. Voting is an exercise in disappointment. Why bother?
It's not like your voice will be heard. It's not like collectively, things will actually change. The decisions have already been made, don't you know? There's a group of old dudes in a room running this country. It's funny because ironically, they vote amongst themselves. Ok, maybe not ha ha funny, but it's funny, trust me. Anyways, things have been decided man, they know what's gonna happen because they make it happen. They like it when we vote cuz they keep track of where we all live. They're tracking you right now dude so don't vote!
Finally, you know all that talk about voting and freedom and that lovely hand-holding run through a field of flowers they do? It's all marketing man. We're not free. We're padlocked in a cage built by the stupidity of the majority. Repeat after me, people are stupid! And you put em all together collectively and they're as smart as that stuff that builds up behind the couch. No, you don't want any of that. Freedom is to avoid the idiocy of the masses. Don't do it, you hear me? You don't want to actually agree with anyone because the moment you do, forget about enlightenment or self-awareness. Mooo! Mooooo!!
Monday, November 06, 2006
Seldom does a game ad, or any ad for that matter, make me proud to be in advertising. There are rare exceptions and I think the ad below is one of them.
I'm immediately taken back to the days when flying was a reality and "I totally got you because I said bang before you!" Those were the days when play wasn't compartmentalized into how many drinks you had or how many vacation days were left. Play happened spontaneously and ended with either sunsets or bloody knees. You lived to play and the sheer pleasure of it was so intense, you never bothered to take stock.
We don't play like that anymore but we all want to. We yearn to get into the dirt and get dirty; the kind of dirty where the tub runs brown as you shower and you rejoice. We crave running and chasing each other with no pretension or point. Points are stupid.
This ad says, you can still do that. Maybe not out on the streets but it's all in this box, this Xbox. Fire it up and escape. That's powerful stuff.
Other ads in the campaign:
I had the pleasure of spending time with some gamer friends this weekend. Let me tell you, it feels nice to be around people that have the same passion as you and speak the same language. Well, mostly the same language.
I was deep in conversation with a friend who is mad about WoW, I mean absolutely addicted and loving it... hmm, let's call her "Elendil". Anyways, we were talking about raids and items and people management when we came across the topic of accents. Given that WoW is an international game and she keeps vampire hours, she plays a lot with Aussie gamers.
I asked her, "So like, in the heat of battle, do you lose them cuz of the accents?".
"Not really", she replied.
"Yeah, I guess everyone screams DOT the same way." I said.
"Umm no, we say dot." she corrected me.
In the above exchange, I said DOT by pronouncing every letter, dee - oh - tee. She just said the word, dot, rhymes with bot. Oops. I am SO lame.
Now let me caveat this whole thing by saying I don't like using voicechat. I don't do it. It kills the experience for me. If I did, I'm sure I would have come across the proper way to say DOT (which by the way stands for damage over time). But given my avoidance of voice, I simply defaulted to my own internal voice.
This is, unfortunately, not the first time my internal voice has botched words I've read but never heard. Earlier in my gaming life, I ran across words like tunic (it's ton-ick right?), falchion (falk-on?) and epitome (epee-tome?). Not bothering to actually look up these words, I gamed for endless hours using my own pronunciation. It was not until I actually started talking to other players did I realize I was wrong. "Ooooh, that's how you say it!"
I'd like to think that in a strange way these situations are gaming's little gifts of education to me. More realistically, it's just a secret language between groups of like-minded people. If you don't stumble when reading this sentence, "HP low, tapped mana, medding for sec. Watch for MOBs, SoW out in 2 mins," you'll probably do just fine in any MMO. Unless you said "ess-oh-dubyu" for "SoW". Ha ha ha, you're such a noob!
Friday, November 03, 2006
Scientists writing in the journal Science warn that if fishing continues at the current pace, there will be a global collapse of fish species by 2048. They define collapse as the fish population at less than 10% prior to fishing.
Damn, that's in my lifetime! Well, that is if I live a healthy life, drink red wine every day and have fish at least thrice a week. Wait a second... Dammit!
via the New York Times
Thursday, November 02, 2006
squirmedy (skwurm-i-dee) n. A genre of movie or television with the main intention to cause audience members to squirm uncomfortably. Sometimes comedic but often puerile, this entertainment category experienced tremendous growth during the early 21st century due to the prominence of amateur videos and reality television.
See: Jackass (show and movies), Borat & Bobby Brown
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Usually when Google buys a company, I'm not personally excited. Yesterday, they announced the acquisition of JotSpot and I actually whooped. If you haven't heard of JotSpot, it's a site that offers wiki technology along with a slew of really useful add-on apps. My main problem with JotSpot was that they didn't have a free offering. With Google on board now, well, that's not going to be a problem. If you do any sort of online collaboration, you should look into JotSpot, they're hands down the leader in the space. They've suspended new accounts during transition but I'll let you know when it's back up.
Monday, October 30, 2006
You know, I am such a gloater when given the opportunity. So with my apologies, please consider this post pure unadulterated gloating!
From a post a few months back, I was mildly spanked by the Second Life community for calling BS on the marketing activities within their community. My basic premise was that it was one huge PR play and that no one's going to get any value from any of it. At the time, there were maybe a handful of brands that dabbled in the space. Maybe they had good intentions, maybe not. Regardless, today, like a swarm of piranhas, there are dozens of brands thrashing in this PR feeding frenzy.
It's gotten so bad that Second Lifers are getting sick of it, as evidenced by this post from Second Life Herald. As much as I like to gloat, I actually feel pretty bad for the residents. I doubt many of these brands want to settle down and be citizens, rather, they are more like prospectors, taking from the land, ignoring the original inhabitants and generally leaving ghost towns behind. Which of course, begs the question: What do you do with leftover islands when the original developer has lost interest? Will Wells Fargo island become a place for Second Life teens to loiter and pass around a richly pixeled pipe?
Second Lifers need to take back control of their world. It's time to realize that not all PR is good PR. New residents need to experience the world and the value of the world as old timers do, not as a test drive of a Toyota or a tour of a hotel but rather as a social experience built upon mutual interests and sex. Try screening some brands, you know, figure out their intentions. Because if you don't, get ready to call yourself a citizen of Ad World.
Sunday, October 29, 2006
So what amounts to a rounding error, we were all gifted with an extra hour today. Like that fondue set I got last Xmas, I knew it was coming but really had no clue what to do with it. Blissful sleep would have been a good option but that's so overdone. Frankly, I never know a good way to spend the entire hour. Instead, I'd like to think that my extra time was well-spent and evenly distributed through this 25 hour day by being extra cynical on things that happened today.
Why do "good" restaurants insist on using real cheese on nachos? What's wrong with the gooey yellow stuff you pump out of the warm metal box? Real cheese congeals and results in my well-planned nacho extraction becoming a nightmarish trail of tears and rogue tomatoes. Repeat after me, give it to me fake.
I got three bags of Butterfingers, M&Ms and mixed chocolate bites (Crackle FTW!) just waiting to be rewarded to the cute costumed kids that figure out my building's intercom system. But let's be honest with ourselves here, there are no kids coming this year, just like no kids came last year. This is our guilt-ridden country's excuse to over stock candy and indulge ourselves in leftovers bliss. Let's just drop the excuses and call it Eat'n Candy day.
To the guy I ran into today whom I haven't seen in 10 years: The fact is, the hug was probably unnecessary, I'm sorry I pulled you in. Also, when I asked about the wife what I really meant was "Are you still married?" I wish could channel some Craigslist wit and end this on a high note but there's nothing there. I totally put on a face and I'm sure you did too. Why do we bother? I say we just nod to each other next time and move on. But hey, it was nice seeing you again.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
Hello. You've reached Branded Newb.
We're out of the state right now and will return this weekend.
If this is an emergency, elevate and ice it.
If you're interested in buying the beige couch, please leave your contact info and best offer.
To leave a message for Ken or for Stephanie Chambers #1 Real Estate Agent in the Westside!, click comment.
Have a nice day!
Election day is coming up in these here parts so it's time to flex those weakened voting muscles. Yeah, it's been a while for me too. Hmm... at least since like Taylor Hicks.
To help you make those critical decisions, there's the uber informative television commercials, tons of mail (e and snail), slick websites, puffy blogs and even the occasional phone call. But you and I both know those tactics are like so last election. No, this year the coolest candidates are on MySpace.
Take, for example, the California governor's race. Phil's got an official MySpace (page, but no one says page after MySpace, that's so lame). Arnold, well Arnie doesn't have an official one but there's arnoldisback, dictatorschwarzenegger, governor_arnie, governorofcalifornia and the very ultra-hip named 8198043.
Phil's got 7,328 friends, more than any of the Arnie clones can claim. Among Phil's friends: Tom (slut), Jesus, Orange County, the UN, Gandhi, Lindsay Lohan and an army of guys and girls sans shirts. I don't care about his platform, with a collection of friends like this, he's a shoo-in. I'm not Phil's friend by the way because he was online earlier and I wanted to chat but he totally blew me off. Whatevs dude.
On a serious note, this is an interesting online play. I'm pretty sure going on MySpace is not going to affect any candidate's chances for success. However, a candidate doesn't work alone and if you're trying to marshal the troops on the ground, (you know, the button-making, lawn stabbing, clipboard-waving unjaded youth of America) well, this isn't a bad way to do it.
When people are passionate about something, they need outlets to express this passion. The use of MySpace brings the campaign home to something familiar to the volunteers and their friends. It is the equivalent of staking that poster in your lawn. Is it really going to make a difference, probably not much, but it makes you feel like a contributor.
In this age of indifference, any outlet for political expression and discussion is a-okay in my book. So go out there, bump all your loser friends out of your top 8 and replace them with Phil or the Arnies or both (non-Californians, BYOCandidates). Heck, if nothing else, it'll bump up your friend count and you know you need a little help there.
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Two new videos are up at PlayB3yond, the PS3 marketing site. The positioning is Playstation tried and true: It's all about the beauty and the power.
Hey, if you're going to have to explain a graphics chip, you might as well do it in style. Overall, these are slick videos. The retro love to the rubik's cube is a nice touch. The mouseover interaction thing on the second video is poorly executed; could have been much easier and thus cooler to use.
More to say when they release the full site.
Monday, October 23, 2006
Remember that cute little sign you'd see now and then? The one that goes something like this:
- Rule #1 - The boss is always right
- Rule #2 - If the boss is wrong, refer to Rule #1
I love the Web 2.0 movement but there's one thing that keeps bothering me. Consumer generated content and rankings have democratized opinions. Everyone has an opinion and now every single one of those opinions count (usually literally counted as a vote). The problem with that is not everyone could possibly be right. You have no way to tell if someone has arbitarily come to a conclusion or has made one after doing tons of homework. Opinions are generated from information and we all know that information today is both voluminous and unwieldly. Chances are, we're not really using the best information available to make our decisions nor do we care if anyone else does. Expertise is dead.
What I think we're doing is what I'm going to call stacking behavior. The Web 2.0 movement has provided all of us with bags of tokens (our votes). As you traverse the online world of reviews, rankings and content, you will eventually come across something you like. As a sign of your approval or disapproval, you drop your token onto the pile.
Pretty soon though, something interesting starts to happen. Your opinion becomes influenced by how others voted rather than the available facts. I'm guessing it's a twist on groupthink. You notice large piles and think, "well, that stack is large enough, it doesn't need my token." On the other hand, you'll notice tiny piles and think, "well, that poor little stack needs another token." (I'm not exactly sure what makes something go from tiny stack to huge, probably a combination of timing and momentum, like that moment where popcorn starts to really go nuts in the microwave.) In the end, I'm pretty sure we're all just working towards making average stacks. Also, let's not forget that one dude that runs between the piles tossing handfuls of tokens over his head and screaming, "Look at me, I'm a valuable contributor!"
My gut feeling is that the democratization of opinions and our stacking behavior is going to ruin Web 2.0. We're going to have a backlash and snap back to recognize the value of expertise and quality of analysis. Well, at least, that's my hypothesis. My goal is to try to find some hard data to see if there's any evidence to support any of this. If you come across anything, let me know.
Sunday, October 22, 2006
- Bob Dylan sings just fine, the problem is you're just too sober.
- You're not allowed to have a "favorite" restaurant in a foreign country if you've only been to said foreign country once.
- Inflation's a bitch. For the second time in a year, a homeless dude asked me for $100.
- When I ask to buy a beer, chances are, I don't want the one sitting on the side... so don't make things awkward by asking.
- The amount of loose change in your pocket is inversely proportional to your distance from an expired parking meter.
- The 70% off warehouse sale IS too good to be true, move on.
- Flowers cause selective blindness: Take any newspaper, then use it as a floor mat, to catch bbq drippings or as a bb gun target. Take same newspaper, use to wrap around roses and present package to a woman in your life. If she notices the paper, you didn't spend enough on the roses.
- Late night television preys on our weakened sense of quality. Exhibit #1: Infomercials. Exhibit #2: Byron Allen's immortal career.
- After the third date, it becomes acceptable to take home leftovers from dinner.
- You can't leave a list with only 9 items.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
There's a warm lounger reserved in Hell for some of us in this country. A majority will be for marketers... hopefully mine will have a nice view of the lava flows. The rest will be for middle class self-righteous soccer moms.
From Reuters: A lawyer (when you got your lounger reserved, go for broke) and mother of two has created a site called HowsMyNanny.com. What's this? Here's how it works. You put a unique plate on your kid's stroller. When nanny is out about town with the kid, god forbid, she's a little late in giving your kid the juice bottle. Well, your fellow Prada kicking, Gucci touting, sister in class will whip out her pink Blackberry, load up the site and report that lazy-ass nanny so you can send her packing to whatever country she's from.
Holy crap, what a wonderful idea! No, not wonderful because what she wants to do, wonderful because it's got built in come-uppance. I don't care if this never gets anymore publicity but I know this is going to happen: One of these loving mothers is going to be late for a mani-pedi and pull out into town with the nanny's stroller. Then, it's just a matter of time before the kid goes nuclear, the ill-experienced mom loses it and someone else eagerly pulls up the site.
See you hell ladies.
Friday, October 20, 2006
According to the NY Times, the guy that posted threats to bomb football stadiums has been charged with "committing a criminal hoax".
According to AP, via ABC News, "the man acknowledged posting the phony stadium threat as part of a 'writing duel' with a man from the Brownsville, Texas, area to see who could post the scariest threat."
Free speech anyone? OH wait, I remember my civics class... the whole thing about not being able to yell "Fire!" in a building and be protected by free speech. Ok fine, maybe this wasn't that smart. But wait a sec, this guy is charged because he posted something on the Internet. So what about the people that passed this on? Wouldn't that be the equivalent of echoing "Fire!" in said building? Shouldn't they be responsible for some of this? Surely we can take this opportunity to throw all those people in jail, you know, those people that pass on Internet stuff without thinking (Bill Gates will pay you if you forward this message). Can we, can we?!
"...he first posted the threats in September and said he re-posted them 40 more times."
Umm, oh ok... nevermind. Throw the book at his stupid ass!
Lately, I've been engrossed, I mean seriously en-freak'n-grossed with Loco Roco. It's abnormal, it's not healthy and I need help! Someone help me? I mean, I tried hiding the PSP but then that one time when my buddies and I were settling in to watch some football...well, what do you say when someone feels something under the couch and pulls out a PSP with Loco Roco? I'll tell you what you say. You say nothing, that's what. You deny, you lie to their face.
"Yeah dude, that probably came with the couch. Ok maybe it's mine but I'm not like enjoying it... Yeah right, I don't sing along."
Ok, you and I both know it didn't come with the couch. I had to lie, if they knew, they'd take it away. I'm not denying it anymore though. Yes, I bought it. (Wow, this admitting problems stuff is hard) I made a conscious decision and acted upon it. I take full responsibility.
In fact, I ordered it off Amazon with shaky excited hands. When the box came, I ripped that sucker open so fast, you'd think it was Kiera's bra or something. Why the excitement?
That song. I had to have that song. The song and I are meant to be together. We were MADE to be together. I'll share the song with you but you have to give it back k?
It wasn't like love at first sight. (Cuz you can't see a song silly) But there was something about the song, something in the way it made me move. You know, it was foreign in that Angelina way but familiar and safe, in that Scarlett way? You know?! Anyways, first heard it on its MySpace page. MySpace, Ha! I guess that should have been my first warning sign this wouldn't be a healthy relationship. What can I say, sometimes you do things even if you know it's wrong.
Don't worry, I'm better now than the early days. I tried quitting cold turkey but then the pacing, the rocking, the night sweats... they were too much. I had to go back but I'm pretty sure I'm only singing the song now when I'm awake. Yeah, pretty sure.
Look, I'm not crazy k? I think the song is some weird mind control chant or something. It keeps sucking me in, sucking me in, sucking me in. I really don't know what to do. Last night, I filled up 20 yellow water balloons and slept in the tub with them. I know, that's not right.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Monday, October 16, 2006
Nivea and Phillips Norelco (makers of skincare and shaving stuff) have partnered with Ubisoft to do an integrated campaign within Splinter Cell 6: Double Agent. Some things to look forward to:
- In-game rendered products placed in game world bathroom
- Marketing billboards with lines like "The 'Good Guy' almost never has a beard."
- Ad insert in the retail packaging
"The company also bought a print ad in the game's strategy guide published by Prima. The creative features a bottle of after shave made to look like a hand grenade with the message 'Balms away.'"OMFGBBQWWJDASAP401K!!
No, this has got to be a joke right? C'mon, someone tell me it's a joke. You know, when I think about male skincare products, I totally think about Sam Fisher. That's Sam on the right there. Yup, he'll never leave home without all his "products". You think that fabulous looking unibrow just naturally falls into that style in the morning?
Ok, seriously, what's going on here? Why do I have that sinking feeling that in-game advertising is about to get sucker punched? Maybe it won't be that bad. Maybe an account exec never said, "Can we add a shaving scene? Can we let the player choose clean or scruffy Sam Fisher? Can we fit our fragrance line in here somewhere?"
Oh boy, this is gonna be a fun one to watch.
Recently, I was invited to review Ultimate Ghosts N' Goblins from Capcom. I've played the game for a week and a half now and quite frankly, I'm loving it. Now before you think I've sold out and will throw a good review on anyone that sends me a free game, let me refer you to the Branded Newb archive: My GameTap post on 3/30/06:
The new TV offering consists of 5 original channels and over 250 on demand video clips. My favorite part of the press release: Capcom adds Ghouls and Ghosts to the GameTap lineup. [image included]So you see, I'm a fan of the series. Back in the day, I couldn't get enough of the original. Maybe it was some subconscious knight in shining armor aspirations or maybe it was a much deeper dude in boxers throwing lances thing. Who knows, don't judge me! Needless to say, I was kinda excited about playing the updated version.
For me, the new PSP version didn't disappoint. Now I have to caveat this by saying that I would probably never want to play this on a console, my expectations of console games is pure current-gen old-school free. However, as the device gets smaller, so does my expectations (it's why I love bubble breaker on my cell). Ultimate Ghosts N' Goblins is a great handheld title because it's fast paced, you can play in short bursts and there's not a single thing to read, it's all eye candy goodness.
First the pro's: Visually, it looks great. All the levels have a unique look and feel with appropriately unique environmental obstacles. You definitely don't get bored the first time through (more on this later).
The controls are classic so there's a learning curve to become twitch proficient but I kinda like that they're simple. I get self-conscious when I'm contorting myself wildly in public.
The gameplay is a basic sidescroller "get through without getting smacked" affair. This lends itself to a satisfyingly fast-paced experience. What's interesting about this version is that they've put in a bunch of auxillary goals. I find myself spending more time trying to explore the whole level rather than bashing through it. Must find more chests!
The con's: You can't beat the game by just getting to the end. The game requires you to play through until you've successfully mastered each level (that is, picked up all the gold rings scattered about). Since there are only 5 levels, you find yourself getting major deja vu... like staring at the menu at Taco Bell. This can get rather frustrating since there are certain levels you don't want to redo... Level 2-2, I will OWN you!
The bosses don't mean much. I don't know about you but I kinda like boss levels in general. They're a nice conclusion to a level and when you beat a tough boss, you get that great sense of accomplishment. I don't get that sense here. The bosses are fairly easy, have easy to hit sweet spots and are pretty cheap with the loot. I like loot, give me more loot.
The game has its fair share of jumping obstacles and if you're like me, you rack up the falling deaths. To stay sane, I found myself using the flying shield item all the time. Now this gets fairly annoying since the shield goes away after a while, causing you to have to warp to another level just to get more. I didn't like how it made me feel to be a flying shield addict. I'm just a "social" flying shielder, seriously.
Overall, you can expect to have a pretty good time. It's not going to win any game of the year awards or break any new ground in terms of innovation but it's a good staple to have in the library.
A few weeks ago, I got an interesting email:
Hi,So I replied:
I just found your blog entry on Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Essentials for PSP:
[url to BN post] and I think you may be of some help to me. I'm reaching out to you on behalf of M80 & Capcom regarding Ultimate Ghosts N Goblins for PSP. Since you blogged about Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell Essentials for PSP, I thought that you might be interested in posting the press release or a review of the game on your blog? You seem like a reputable influencer, so I think you'd be a big help to us. For your help or review, I'd be happy to send you a copy of Ultimate Ghosts N Goblins for PSP.
Hi,They reply with:
Thanks for the offer. I'd be happy to review the game; however, given that the topic of my blog is also about interactive marketing, I'd have to be upfront about this conversation and engagement with M80. If that is acceptable, feel free to send a copy of the game to: [my address, which you don't get to see, cuz you might do weird stalky stuff to me].
Thanks for your reply! It's wonderful if you post about this conversation and are transparent about your involvement with M80. I'm interested to see what you have to say about the process.Fast forward about a week and a little brown paper package comes in the mail: free Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins from Capcom! You know, what tickles me the most about this is not the free Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins from Capcom. It's the role reversal of me going from game marketer to being marketed to as an influencer. Ahh, so this is how it feels on this side. It's kinda nice.
I was familiar with M80 before this email. In fact, I had thought about approaching them for some non-game clients. They're not a typical ad agency, rather they're experts at the word of mouth/viral marketing tactics that are so popular nowadays. What's very impressive to me was their eagerness for me to be transparent about the whole thing.
I don't like the covert stuff, you know, the stuff where people go and post on message boards like they're just a part of the community? This is something else entirely. This is inviting people that you think are vocal in the community to talk about your product. I like it, mainly because it's risky as hell. You have no idea if everyone you just sent Ultimate Ghosts and Goblins from Capcom to will end up hating it. But of course... if they love it, you get a major payoff in great word of mouth.
What did I think of the game? Stay tuned for the review post of... Ultimate Ghost and Goblins from Capcom!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Being charitable is tough. I mean, I really want to give to a good cause but what I do I get out of it? You can't lose weight with a donation to the Red Cross, you can't go to a party with a gift to the National Children's Cancer Society, Unicef doesn't help make your clothes smell better and the ONE campaign makes a terrible turkey sandwich. On top of all that, when I do donate to charity, no one knows, so I can't even walk around basking in that "I donated blood" aura of goodness. Seriously, what has charity done for me lately? Know what I'm saying?
Well, I found something just for me. The (Red) campaign, brought to you by Bono and friends. Partnered with big global brands like Motorola, American Express, Gap, and Apple, this campaign is so freak'n perfect. Ok, here's how it works. You buy something red (no really, all the stuff is red) and part of your purchase goes to charity. Simple huh? The best part? You get a great product and trust me, no one can miss you in a crowd. "Woo, look at that charitable soul at the bar" they'll say.
Seriously, I'm so glad this came along, my Be Strong bracelet was getting a little funk around the edges.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
We're right smack in the middle of the console release frenzy. Just search Ebay for PS3 or Wii and you get a sense of how desirable it is for some people to get these consoles right away or before anyone else on the block. Based on bids made, it's looking like people will pay about a hundred bucks above retail for the Wii and two to three times the price for the PS3! Obviously, there's a monetary value associated with getting something now instead of days or weeks later.
All this got me thinking. Why doesn't Sony or Nintendo actually do something interesting with this phenomenon? They could release some limited edition consoles at an early date and charge a lot more for them. Release 1,000 consoles a few weeks earlier than the public release. Put the consoles up for auction with people bidding on the first to hundredth. There's no doubt in my mind that there'll be a wild response to it.
Now before you stop reading in disgust, this is not a suggestion for them to make more money. I actually think this would be a really cool way to make some money for charity. With 1,000 consoles and the possibility of people paying $1,000 more than retail for each, that's a cool million they could give to charity. They don't come out of it empty handed since they get a great PR story.
Just an idea.
Wednesday, October 11, 2006
In a new campaign for the Sentra, Nissan gets a guy to live in his car for 7 days. The campaign is inspiringly called, "7 days in a Sentra".
(For full disclosure purposes, I'm currently consulting for the ad agency that created this campaign though I didn't work on this particular campaign.)
The campaign includes a blog as well as some other online elements. The trades have covered it and it's already gotten some bad reviews from bloggers. Overall, I think the main criticism is that this feels contrived and forced, like your grandfather sporting a threadless t-shirt at the family reunion. At first, I would agree. This stinks of corporate America tredding on the territory of quirky stunts usually done by kids with too much time on their hands (Mascot Roommate for Coffee Bean is another example). There's a sense of disingenuousness in the air, begging the question of "Well how hard is it to live in a car for 7 days if you have an entire company behind you?"
And then I started thinking about it. The language of marketing has changed. Consumers shrug off phrases like, "More horsepower than...", "Class leading legroom", or "Oh what a feeling...". You can't simply force feed your brand messages down their throats. You have to engage consumers with something interesting, something entertaining.
Yes, I think this campaign is contrived but that's exactly what it's meant to be, something artificially created to start a conversation with the consumer. If I were shopping for a Sentra and if I were given the choice of watching a boring video of the interior or this... well, I rather watch this. I rather be entertained or at least challenged/given the option to be entertained than given the same boring spiel. Sure, I know the guy probably had it easy for 7 days but I'm not taking it too seriously. I'm suspending disbelief and going along for the experience, like watching 24.
I like this idea. Like the Honda Element & Friends campaign (the crab that says, "I pinch"), this shifts the way car companies talk about their products and doesn't just toss marketing one liners at you.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Tom Taylor, all of 18, dropped out of high school and joined a professional video game league. He's pulling in $250,000 and has product endorsements as well as a "game tutoring business". He says, "I feel like I was born to play video games." Nice job Tom, don't get caught up in the drugs, women and gambling.
Well, this AP story dropped yesterday and was widely picked up by newspapers across the country. This story has, therefore, been deemed to be newsworthy... but why? Is it because a young man is pursuing his dreams? Perhaps it's the amount of money he's making at such a young age?
Let's face it, this story is all about video games and the general perception that the value in playing games is the physical and mental equivalent of Cheetos for Thanksgiving dinner. You could do it and it'd be fun but you're not going to be proud of it. In our society, games are to be outgrown, to gather dust like your old skateboard and replaced in your mind with things like FICA and PPO. If you're passionate about games, you're always tempering your enthusiasm because "they" wouldn't understand.
I hate it. I hate reading stories like this because stories like this perpetuate society's code of conduct. This story reads like a warning label for parents: there's a game league out there looking for your kid, let your kid play video games and he may just make a career out of it. Am I misrepresenting it? Probably but let's assume I'm right.
This needs to change and quite frankly, I don't think it's a content issue. It's not because games are violent or superficial or made for men. If that were the case, we'd have to demote all sports, movies or current books as well. No, what we have here is an image problem. We need to change the look of gamers. Socially inept teenage guys, thank you for your service, we'll take it from here.
So who do we want to represent the industry? What about me? I'm 30. I'm a professional with a master's degree and comfortably middle class. I have a robust appreciation and an above-average consumption of the cultural arts and fine things. When I'm not working, I have a social life. Am I what we need to be the face of gamers? Oh heck no, I'm too dorky looking but you get the point.
I guess what I'm trying to say to my marketing brothers and sisters is that we need to shift the imagery around. Use the guys from the SUV ads, not the Mountain Dew ads. Hey, you know the couch shot, the one from the TV's perspective? Yeah, that one. How about you add some art on the walls and some imported beer on the coffee table? And you know that X Games sponsorship? Drop it, no one pays attention anyways.
Finally, you know that high school dropout that you just sponsored? Yeah, bad idea.
via ABC News
So you may have heard, Google bought YouTube. I took a half day to figure out what this might mean for Google and why they went and dropped $1.6 billion on something they already have. My conclusion? Of all the articles I read, the head of Microsoft said it best:
“If you believe it’s the future of television, it’s clearly worth $1.6 billion,” Steven A. Ballmer, Microsoft’s chief executive, said of YouTube. “If you believe something else, you could write down maybe it’s not worth much at all.”In the short term, Google is going to make money by the contextual ads you'll see next to the videos. In the long term, their clout is going to bring in authorized TV and movie content (they already scored music videos & check out this interview). It's tough to imagine a way for Google to squeeze their way into the action in television or movies. As it is now, you're just not going to see a Google channel on broadcast TV. So with the acquisition of YouTube, they're correctly betting that eyeballs will shift from TV viewing to web-based viewing. Once the eyeballs are in their domain, they'll rack in the ad revenue.
If you'll notice, I ignored the contribution of consumer videos to any significant future revenue. Don't get me wrong, I love the consumer stuff but at the end of the day, it's not going to replace professionally-produced content. (Popular YouTube videos get a couple hundred thousand views, laughable compared to network TV.) The real shift in online videos will take place when the latter becomes available and enjoyable online. Most of us still refuse to sit still for longer than 2 minutes with an online video but eventually, someone will figure out a formula that'll work (lonelygirl?).
This is new territory for Google but it's fitting on a day when we're supposed to celebrate exploration and conquest.